Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the most popular place to visit in Muscat. And no wonder. Its architecture, scale and atmosphere are a heady mix that leaves a lasting impression on worshippers and tourists alike. But can you can visit Sultan Qaboos Mosque with children?
This is always at the front of my mind when we visit iconic places where lively or grumpy kids are the last thing anyone wants to see. Or so us guilt-ridden parents tell ourselves.
We visited Oman’s largest mosque at the end of our seven day road trip around the north west of the country.
Read more about visiting Oman with kids in my comprehensive travel guide for families.
Here’s our experience there with a ten and eight-year-old along with some tips for going yourself.
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Can children visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque?
Before we arrived at the Grand Mosque I’d done a bit of research about visiting with children.
From what I’d read elsewhere children could visit. However, kids under the age of 10 were not allowed in the prayer halls where some of the most impressive features can be seen.
So I wasn’t sure how much we’d get out of our visit.
However, when we arrived our guide told us that the rule about children under 10 only applied during prayer times.
So, if you are there to visit rather than pray, children can go into the Grand Mosque’s prayer rooms and everywhere else that is open to visitors.
Making the most of your visit the Grand Mosque in Muscat
We’re a family of agnostics – we very much sit on the fence about God – but when it comes to experiencing places of religion and the artistry around different beliefs and cultures we are fans.
During our travels we’ve wandered around the gothic grandeur of Catedral de Barcelona in Catalonia, marvelled at Luke Jerram’s Gaia at Exeter Cathedral and admired the work of Di Vinci, Botticelli and Raffaello in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
All are incredible spectacles that we wholeheartedly recommend.
However we know that as adults we engage with these places in a different way to our girls. Especially when they were toddlers and pre-schoolers.
So, how do we bring these places to life for them?
In the past we’ve done this with the help of family tour guides, taking part in kids crafting activities alongside exhibitions, using trail sheets or coming up with our own list of things to spot.
The Grand Mosque in Muscat doesn’t offer these things, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from it if you are looking for things to do in Oman.
To help I’ve put together a free spotter sheet that you can download before your visit as well as some facts to share with your children and other activities to keep them entertained.
10 facts for kids about Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
My eldest daughter loves facts – so do I – and there are some epic ones about the Grand Mosque in Muscat.
Share these 10 facts about the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque to pique your kids’ interest before your visit:
The Grand Mosque was a gift to the people of Oman from the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said. All Muslims can pray here and anyone of any religion or none can visit for free.
The Sultan Qaboos Mosque was built over six years. There was a design competition to decide what it would look like and it has won several international design awards since opening.
The Grand Mosque’s 90 metre minaret is the tallest structure in Oman. No other building is higher.
The chandelier in the main prayer room is eight metres in diameter and 14 metres high – that’s as big as a two-storey house.
The chandelier is decorated with 600,000 Swarovski crystals and 1,122 light bulbs. A crane is used to clean them.
The central dome rises 50 metres above the men’s prayer hall.
The mihrab (the alcove that indicates the direction of Mecca) in the mens prayer hall has a secret door on either side. These are what the Imam (the prayer leader) uses to reach the front of the hall and the minbar where he stands to deliver the sermon.
The Iranian carpet in the main prayer hall took 600 women four years to weave and weighs 21 tonnes.
The main prayer room can hold 6,500 men, while the women’s prayer room can hold 750. Overall, 20,000 people can come to the mosque to pray indoors and out.
The Grand Mosque is also a place for learning. It has a library with more than 23,000 books about Islamic culture, natural science, art and philosophy.
If you want to share more facts about Islam with your children Twinkl has some great free and subscription resources about Islam.
Activities to do with your kids at the Grand Mosque in Muscat
Here’s some activities to do with your children as you explore to keep them engaged and entertained:
Count the minarets
Spoiler alert: there are five. The mosque’s towers represent the five pillars of Islam:
- faith in one God
- fasting during Ramadan
- and pilgrimage.
Spot script from the Qur’an
Throughout the Grand Mosque you’ll see walls, floors doors and ceilings decorated with geometric and floral designs. Look closely and you’ll also see Arabic script adorning the building.
These are verses from the Qur’an.
Don’t step on a crack
You could challenge your children to carefully step from one marbled floor tile to the next without standing on the join.
Copy your favourite pattern
There are lots of shady spots in the grounds of the Grand Mosque where you could sit with some pencils and paper to recreate one of the patterns you’ve spotted on the carpet, in the mosaics or on the exteriors of the buildings.
A place to do this with patterns in front of you is underneath the covered walk ways down each side of the mosque complex.
Find out more about Islam
Another place to take a seat and reflect is the Islamic Centre which is on the left inside the Mosque complex as you walk in.
There’s a team of volunteers here who will answer any questions your children may have about the mosque or Islam.
They are extremely welcoming to people of all faiths and will offer you water, coffee and dates.
Finally, looking up is always a must when you visit places of worship and the Grand Mosque is no exception.
One of the best spots to do this is in the men’s prayer hall directly under the chandelier.
FREE Grand Mosque spotter sheet
Here’s a spotter sheet that I’ve put together including some of the features, materials and points of interest you’ll see.
Download it before you visit the Grand Mosque.
More handy things to know about Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Here’s some more information about Muscat’s Grand Mosque to enrich your visit:
When was Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque built?
This incredible place of worship was a gift to the people of Oman by the last Sultan whose name it bears.
It is a work of art that took six years to build starting in 1996. When it was opened by the Sultan in 2001 it boasted the largest handmade carpet in the world and the biggest chandelier.
The UAE and Qatar have now snatched both titles, but this in no way diminishes the awe-inspiring spectacle of this mosque. It has to be seen to be believed.
The design is overwhelmingly Arabic but there are influences and materials from around the world.
Alongside Omani granite and marble, 30,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone were used in the mosque’s construction. The chandelier was made in Italy as were the stained glass windows along the walls of the mens prayer room.
The mosque also has a more modest prayer room for women. It is smaller because traditionally women pray at home. It is mainly used on Fridays, which is the Islamic holy day.
There are male and female wash rooms that each worshiper visits before they go to pray. They use cold water to wash their faces, including their mouths and noses, their hands, arms and feet.
Guides at the mosque
We hired a guide inside the mosque to get the full story. He was full of facts, ready to answer questions and enthusiastic to take our picture in all the popular vantage points.
We visited the Islamic Centre after our tour where we were offered water, coffee and dates while learning about Islam. They have a range of free books exploring the religion that you are encouraged to take away.
How much does it cost to visit the Grand Mosque?
There’s no charge to enter and you don’t need to pay for a guide. If they have time, the volunteers in the Islamic Centre can take you on a tour for free.
Dress code when visiting the mosque
Men and women need to wear clothing that fully covers legs and arms. Women must also cover their hair, so bring a scarf.
If you do arrive in clothes that don’t meet these requirements you can hire an abaya at the shop at the entrance.
Wear shoes that are easy to remove. You’ll need to take them off to enter the prayer halls. There are shoe racks around the entrances to both the mens and woman’s prayer rooms.
When is the Grand Mosque open?
You can look around between 8am and 11am Saturday to Thursday, even during Ramadan. Allow at least an hour and a half for you visit.
You might also like to check out our tips for visiting Oman during Ramadan. It’s the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and the dates change every year so it’s important to know when it is and what to expect.
Eating, drinking and smartphones
It’s not permitted to eat, drink or use your smartphone for phone calls in the prayer rooms. You can take smartphone pictures.
Where is Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque?
How to get there
The Grand Mosque is situated in Al Ghurbah South – a 15 minute drive from Muscat International Airport. A lot of Oman tours will make it their first stop because of this.
If you take a taxi from the airport or your accommodation make sure they use their meter or you agree the fare before you set off. Taxis aren’t cheap but you will find lots of them about.
If you want to use public transport bus route 12 stops on the N1 highway within a 10 minute walk of the mosque. Find connections on the Moovit App.
More things to do in Muscat
For something completely different, take a look at my guide to visiting Snow Oman in the Mall of Oman.
More reading about visiting Oman with kids
Got a bit of time to explore Oman with kids? Take a look at our recommended things to do in Oman.
Here’s some more popular places we’ve been:
Read more about visiting Oman with kids in my comprehensive travel guide for families.